Pairing, Parenting and Promising Through Tortuous Paths: Cohabitation, Single-Parenting, Extended-Family Parenting, and the Role of Kinship and Religion
International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the Family, Vol. 2, 2012
Posted: 17 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 16, 2011
As couples in Western Europe generally follow the traditional path leading to marriage through a series of familiar stages, guided by recognized signposts, for a sizable number the course of action is more complicated. When many of the pair-bonding ingredients traditionally associated with marriage, such as emotional and sexual intimacy, are inserted into the early stages of the relationship, unplanned pregnancy is very likely to occur at a time when the relationship lacks clear contours and direction. The new family finds itself in a juridical and psychological limbo. While customs and values may change over time, other factors, such as kinship, extended family ties and the religious culture seem to be more resilient than previously thought. In the wake of an increase in births out of wedlock, extended families seem to be responding sufficiently well by absorbing these newcomers into their fold. In this process, grandparents are seen to be playing a determining role. These evolving family patterns are analyzed from an empirical perspective and illustrated by a study of a particular socio-cultural scenario taken from the island state of Malta. Though the conclusions cannot be generalized, there are sufficient indications that some of these patterns are replicated elsewhere.
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